Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 11:47 UK

US lesbian wins fertility battle

Guadalupe Benitez (centre), with her partner, Joanne Clark (L), lawyer Jennifer Pizer (R) and her son Gabriel Benitez-Clark outside the Supreme Court, California, 18 August, 2008
Ms Benitez said it was 'painful' to be denied her right to be a mother

California's highest court has ruled that doctors in the US state cannot discriminate against gay patients on the basis of religious belief.

The decision was made after two Christian doctors refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian undergoing fertility treatment.

The doctors said that would have gone against their beliefs and instead told the patient how to inseminate herself.

Guadalupe Benitez, 36, changed doctors and has since had three children.

She sued the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in 2001, arguing that doctors were subject to law banning businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

"It was an awful thing to go through," Ms Benitez was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

'Unlawful discrimination'

"It was very painful - the fact that you have someone telling you they will not help you because of who you are, that they will deny your right to be a mother and have a family," she said.

The ruling by California's Supreme Court said that although religious liberty was protected by the constitution, this was not an excuse for unlawful discrimination against others.

Neither of the two doctors had could be exempted from the state's law on either freedom of speech or religious grounds, Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in her judgement.

Ms Benitez's lawyer, Jennifier Pizer, said it was a "victory for public health", adding that the ruling should have influence throughout the US.

But one of the lawyers for the clinic, in the city of Vista, California, said the ruling advanced the state Supreme Court's "radical agenda".

"The Supreme Court's desire to promote the homosexual lifestyle at the risk of infringing upon the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is what the public needs to learn about," Robert Tyler, head of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, told the Associated Press news agency.

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